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St. Peter's Square, Rome, 1813-1816
Oil on canvas. 31,4 x 26,8 cm
Inventory number: B214
Eckersberg lived in Rome 1813-16 after studying under J.-L. David in Paris. In other words, he was familiar with French art when he arrived in Rome. It was also a great experience to him to make the acquaintance of the French landscape painter, P.A. Chauvin, who lived there and who is also represented in Thorvaldsen’s collection of paintings. Chauvin worked intensively with the space-creating potential of the lines – what is known as linear perspective.
Later in life, when Eckersberg had become a professor in the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Copenhagen, linear perspective represented one of his great passions, but a dawning interest in perspective is already to be found in his Roman views. This view actually represents something of a perspective challenge, as Bernini’s famous colonnade (1656-67) in front of St Peter’s Church is not a straightforward structure, but is characterised precisely by its oval plane. Eckersberg has placed himself in the shadow of the columns looking due north so that the two fountains in the square with the obelisk between are seen in the long axis of the oval. Eckersberg painted this motif no fewer than three times. It is probable that Thorvaldsen acquired the painting while Eckersberg was living in the city.